From the FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton

Posted 30 July 2014: “Benefits and Work”

Courtesy of <>

An unexpected knock at the door. Someone standing there with an ID card claiming they have come to check if you are getting the correct benefits and could they please come in?

What do you do?

You do not have to be guilty of anything to find the possibility of such a visit very alarming – especially if you have a mental health condition made worse by stress and anxiety.

Last month there was a lot of concern about just such visits, prompted by a change to a page on the DWP website which stated:

You may get a visit from a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) officer to check that your benefits payments are correct.

A Performance Measurement review officer may visit you if you are claiming:

Employment and Support Allowance
 Housing Benefit Income Support
 Jobseeker’s Allowance
Pension Credit

Your name is selected at random to be checked. You will not always get a letter in advance telling you about the visit.

The concern was the addition of the sentence:

You will not always get a letter in advance telling you about the visit.

Worries about how to deal with such a visit were posted on various blogs and forums and we received numerous requests from members for guidance on how to deal with these visits.

 So Benefits and Work made a Freedom of Information request.

As a result of that request we can now reveal that, in reality, the vast majority of people who get a visit do not get a letter in advance – surprise visits are the rule, not the exception. There is more on this below.

However, we can also reassure our readers that:

  • you do not have to let them in; and
  • you can insist on being given proper notice;
  • you can insist on having the interview at a DWP office instead of in your home.

And doing so will not affect your benefits, though refusing to take part in an interview at all,  may leave you open to a fraud investigation.

In the members’ area we  have published the letter we got in response to our request and 62 pages of the guidance document issued to officers carrying out these visits – though there are a large number of redactions to the guidance. You will find the documents in the DWP Guides section of the ESA download page in the members’ area.

Only a tiny percentage of claimants receive one of these visits. But the majority who do get one are not given any warning.

In fact, far from ‘You will not always get a letter’ , DWP staff are actually told:

‘You must make an un-notified visit to each customer, apart from the exceptions detailed in the subsequent paragraphs. If this is ineffective a second un-notified visit must be made.’

If two un-notified visits are made on the same day then another un-notified visit must be made on another day.

After that a letter has to be sent giving you at least 48 hours’ notice of a visit or 24 hours where the letter is hand delivered.

There are also certain classes of claimant who should never receive an unannounced visit, including:

“customers suffering from depression or a medically defined mental illness
customers with an alcohol or drug-related dependency
disabled customers where there is evidence from the preview information that they may be distressed if an MRO calls unannounced. “

However, where the visiting officer suspects, on the basis of your files, that you may be committing fraud they can still carry out an un-notified visit even if you are in one of the categories above.

And it is important to be aware that one of the things visiting officers will do is look out for any difference between the details given in your work capability assessment medical report and your behaviour at home. The rather bizarre example given is that of a claimant who is up a ladder washing windows when visited, but their incapacity is listed as vertigo.

So, if your condition is a variable one and you are having a better day, make that very clear – even if you are not asked.

If you are not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription. Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 5854

Claimants and carers get an annual subscription for £15.96, down from £19.95. Professionals get an annual subscription for £77.60, down from £97.00.

The flaws in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system are so grave that simply “rebranding” the work capability assessment by appointing a new contractor will not solve the problems, the Work and Pensions Committee has said in a new report.

Employment and Support Allowance needs fundamental redesign, say MPs

Category: Latest news  Created: Wednesday, 23 July 2014 09:43

The Committee calls on the Government to undertake a fundamental redesign of the ESA end-to-end process to ensure that the main purpose of the benefit – helping claimants with health conditions and disabilities to move into employment where this is possible for them – is achieved. This will take some time, but the redesign should be completed before the new multi-provider contract is tendered, which is expected to be in 2018.

In the meantime, the Committee recommends that DWP implements a number of other changes in the shorter-term to ensure better outcomes and an improved service for claimants. These include:

  • DWP taking overall responsibility for the end-to-end ESA claims process, including taking decisions on whether claimants need a face-to-face assessment, rather than this decision being made by the assessment provider.
  • DWP proactively seeking “supporting evidence” on the impact of a claimant’s condition or disability on their functional capacity, rather than leaving this primarily to claimants, who often have to pay for it. DWP should seek this evidence from the most appropriate health and other professionals, including social workers and occupational therapists, rather than relying so heavily on GPs.
  • The “descriptors” used to assess functional capability in the WCA being applied more sensitively.
  • Placing claimants with a prognosis of being unlikely to experience a change in their functional abilities in the longer-term, particularly those with progressive conditions, in the Support Group and not the WRAG.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said

“Many people going through the ESA claims process are unhappy with the way they are treated and the decisions which are made about their fitness for work. The current provider of the WCA, Atos, has become a lightning rod for all the negativity around the ESA process and DWP and Atos have recently agreed to terminate the contract early.

“But it is DWP that makes the decision about a claimant’s eligibility for ESA – the face-to-face assessment is only one part of the process. Just putting a new private provider in place will not address the problems with ESA and the WCA on its own.

“We are therefore calling for a number of changes which can be made to improve ESA in the short-term, while also recommending a longer-term, fundamental redesign of the whole process.

“We hope that the new Minister for Disabled People, who was appointed last week, will respond positively to our constructive recommendations for improving the ESA process.”

One of the key issues which the Report identifies is that ESA is not achieving its purpose of helping people who could work in the short to medium term to move back into employment.

Read the full report on the Parliament website

Meanwhile a report commissioned by the DWP into benefits sanctions, which saw a fourfold increase for ESA claimants in 2013, has found that the way in which the DWP communicate with claimants is legalistic, unclear and confusing. The most vulnerable claimants are often left at a loss as to why their benefits were stopped and frequently not informed by the DWP about hardship payments to which they are entitled.

However, the report only looked at the way sanctions are communicated, not into whether the system is fair in the first place.

Debbie Abrahams, an MP on the Work and Pensions Committee, has repeatedly called for an independent inquiry into sanctions. She did so again this week, following an inquest into the death of a diabetic ex-soldier who had his JSA sanctioned for missing an appointment and subsequently stopped taking his insulin.

According to the Mirror:

“When David died he had just £3.44 to his name, six tea bags, a tin of soup and an out-of-date can of sardines. His electricity card was out of credit meaning the fridge where he should have kept his insulin chilled was not working.

“A coroner also found he had no food in his stomach.

“A pile of CVs for job applications were found near David’s body.”

The Mirror is reporting that David’s sister has launched a petition calling for an inquiry into sanctions.

  IDS is still fighting desperately to prevent the publication of four reports which would show just how badly universal credit is failing and whether the DWP knowingly misled parliament about problems with the new benefit.

So far, the DWP have lost every stage of the battle to prevent the reports being published under the Freedom of Information Act. But with an unlimited amount of taxpayers money to throw at legal challenges and a vested interest in stringing the process out beyond the next election, losing at every stage is not a reason for concern.

And the true cost to the taxpayer will probably never be known, as the website points out, because the DWP refuse answer Freedom of Information requests on the issue – on the grounds that they do not bother keeping a tally of costs.

If you are not already a member, join the Benefits and Work community before midnight on Friday August 1st and you can get 20% off the cost of your annual subscription. Just type the following code into the coupon box when you pay: 5854

You are welcome to republish part or all of this newsletter, provided you credit Benefits and Work.

Good luck, Steve Donnison, Sangeeta Enright and Karen Sharpe

The Office Team
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666

This message was sent from: Steve Donnison | PO Box 4352 | Warminster,Wilts BA12 2AF, UK. Thanks to Jacqui Barbet Shields for sending this information to me which I felt I should share. Certainly this is one place you can get answers. Thanks also to Steve for keeping me posted.



 From The FMS Global News Desk of Jeanne Hambleton

There are a few things that can be done in times of grave emergencies…. Your mobile phone can actually be a life saver or an emergency tool for survival.

Check out the things that you can do  with it:

FIRST  Emergency Services

The Emergency Number worldwide for all Mobile Phones is 112.

If you find yourself out of  the coverage area of your mobile network and there is an emergency, dial 112 and your mobile will search any existing network in your area to establish the emergency number for you, and interestingly this number 112 can be dialled even if the keypad is locked.  This works on all phones worldwide and is free.

SECOND Have you  locked your keys in the car?

If your car has remote keyless entry? This may come in handy someday.. Good reason to own a cell phone:

If you lock your keys in the car and the spare keys are at home, call someone at  home on their mobile phone from your cell phone.

Hold  your cell phone about a foot from your car door and have the person at your home press the unlock button, holding it near the mobile phone on their end. Your car will unlock. Saves someone from having to drive your keys to you. Distance is no object. You could be thousands of miles away,

Editor’s  Note: I did not believe this when I heard about it! I rang my daughter in Sydney from Perth when we went on holiday.  She had the spare car key.  We tried it out and it unlocked our car over a mobile phone!’

THIRD  Is your mobile phone battery flat ?

All mobiles have Hidden Battery Power

To activate, press the keys *3370# (remember the asterisk).  Do this when the phone is almost dead.

Your mobile will restart in a special way with this new reserve and the instrument will show a 50% increase in battery life.. This reserve will get re-charged when you charge your mobile next time.

This secret is in the fine print in most phone manuals.  Most people however skip this information without realising.

FOURTH How to disable a STOLEN mobile phone?

To  check your Mobile’s serial number, key in the following digits on your  phone: * # 0 6 # Ensure you put an asterisk BEFORE the #06# sequence.

A  15 digit code will appear on the screen. This number is unique to your handset. Write it down and keep it somewhere safe. If your phone ever get stolen, you can phone your service provider and give them this code.

They will then be able to block your handset so even if the thief changes the SIM card, your phone will be totally useless.

You probably would not get your phone back, but at  least you know that whoever stole it cannot use/sell it either. If everybody did this, there would be no point in people stealing mobile phones.

This secret is also in the fine print of most mobile phone manuals.  It was created for the very purpose of trying to prevent phones from being stolen.

Also – ATM   PIN Number Reversal – Good to Know  !! 

If you should ever be forced by a robber to withdraw money from an ATM machine,  (we hope not)  you  can notify the police by entering your PIN # in reverse. For example, if your  pin number is 1234, then you would put in 4321. The ATM system recognizes that your PIN number is backwards from the ATM card you placed in the  machine. The machine will still give you the money you requested, but unknown  to the robber, the police will be immediately dispatched to the location.

All ATM’s carry this emergency sequencer by law.

This information was recently broadcast on by Crime Stoppers. It is, however, seldom used as people just do not know about it.  Please pass this along to everyone.

This is the kind of information people do not mind receiving, so pass it on to your family and friends

See you soon Jeanne



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